UNDER PRESSURE: May faces rebellion
As the Government steps up its moves to sell the Prime Minister’s deal to Brussels this week, Brexiteers have demanded she instead study an alternative plan they say will deliver the Brexit that Britain voted for.
MPs led by Jacob Rees-Mogg are drawing up the alternative proposal, to be published in the next fortnight, and one – who quit the Government last month – warned that there was “just one month left to save Brexit”.
Number 10 is standing firm against the demands and there were signs last night that Brussels is willing to compromise to reach a deal.
An EU insider said: “The thing you have to remember is that the EU want a deal too. I’m sure we can find a deal that works.”
Yesterday Nigel Farage intervened to say ministers should not “underestimate the strength of feeling out there”.
He denounced Chequers as “nothing less than a direct betrayal of everything that people voted for”.
The former Ukip leader is returning to frontline politics to back a campaign involving street stalls and a battle bus and “get the voice of the people heard”.
But as the row became increasingly heated on this side of the Channel there were signs that the position in Brussels is softening.
Insiders suggested that key negotiators believe they can do a deal with Mrs May and that European leaders could even be prepared to compromise on freedom of movement.
However, any agreed form of free movement would infuriate Brexiteers.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who is due to meet EU negotiator Michel Barnier this week, said an agreement with the EU was the “most likely outcome”.
Architects of the anti-Chequers blueprint say it will be “helpful” to the Prime Minister – but warned their rebellion had substantial support.
Senior Government sources hit back and said advocates of the plan had to prove that their deal would win over Brussels, solve the Northern Ireland border issue and win a vote in the House of Commons.
The proposals will set out both the so-called “Canada plus plus” model, which many Brexiteers have been arguing for, and the “no deal” option, which would see the UK leave the EU without an agreement on a future trade relationship and instead use World Trade Organisation rules.
Tory MP John Redwood, who is involved in discussions on the alternative plan, along with as many as 10 other MPs, said: “I hope the Prime Minister reads it and finds it very helpful. It is offered in the spirit of finding a way through.”
No 10 are trying to pretend that the only choices are between Chequers and no deal and they are trying to demonise no deal. But it will not work.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, a member of the powerful Tory backbench European Research Group, said: “In about two weeks we in the ERG are going to come out with our Canada plus plus and no deal proposals.
“No 10 are trying to pretend that the only choices are between Chequers and no deal and they are trying to demonise no deal. But it will not work.”
Insiders said they expect much of the detail of the report to be debated at the Conservative Party conference at the end of September.
A source said the final document would be a “collective” effort from almost 10 Tory members, designed to appeal to the wider ERG and others.
Tory MP and European Research Group member Andrew Bridgen
He added: “We believe this will attract the support of more than 100 Tory MPs.”
Among the ideas expected to be included are proposals to return any money paid to the Government in tariffs to consumers, to offset potential price rises.
The plan is also expected to suggest that ministers call the EU’s “bluff” over the Irish border.
On Thursday the Government is expected to publish a series of documents, setting out the problems with ‘no deal’ and what businesses and even individuals would have to do to prepare for such a scenario, described as “sensible, proportionate, and part of a common-sense approach to ensure stability whatever the outcome of talks”.
But critics say it is a re-run of Project Fear. As well as meeting Mr Barnier, Mr Raab will give a speech on the Government’s plans for a no deal.
Last night he said: “Securing a deal is still by far the most likely outcome, but we want to make sure that we clearly set out the steps that people, businesses and public services need to take in the unlikely event that we don’t reach an agreement.
It’s the responsible thing for any Government to do, to mitigate the risks and make sure the UK is ready to make a success of Brexit.”
The Government also wants to co-operate with the EU on no deal planning but said it was the EU’s responsibility to prepare its own consumers and businesses.
Government sources said the “pace and intensity” of negotiations would step up a gear this week.
Chris Green, a former aide in the Department for Transport, urged Theresa May to listen to those within the party who do not back Chequers.
“Unanimously my (local) membership are very disappointed about Chequers. I feel that we have one month to save Brexit and the Conservative party.”
On a potential “no deal” he said: “The way I would view that is to use the WTO rules as the basis of our relationship with the EU and build up from that.”
REBEL LEADER: Jacob Rees-Mogg wants alternative
Brexiteers warn that the Chequers proposal will not get through the House of Commons “on Tory votes” but that the Government should be cautious about believing it could rely on Labour votes, given Jeremy Corbyn’s desire to bring it down.
“This really is the safer option for the Prime Minister,” said one ERG source.
Another added: “We don’t want the Prime Minister to be rude to other European countries but she’s got to say, ‘My country won’t wear all these concessions, here is a really good free trade deal, take it or leave it’.”
Chequers signs the UK up to a “common rule book” with the EU in order to maintain trade links.
Nigel Farage with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker
Mrs May has defended Chequers by saying she is being “hard-headed and practical” and that it would protect jobs and livelihoods that depend on integrated supply chains.
But the plan has triggered a backlash from Tory MPs and the party’s grassroots.
Brexiteers fear Mrs May could also concede more to Brussels, including on freedom of movement.
One Tory source warned of a potential return to David Cameron’s idea of an “emergency brake” on immigration “which was rejected by the British people in the referendum”.
In a report on the no deal option published today, Martin Howe QC, of Lawyers for Britain, says prices should fall after Brexit.
He hits out at what he says is the “tariff delusion… that when we leave the EU, WTO rules will require the UK to take the current tariffs which the EU at present forces us to impose on imports from the rest of the world, and impose them on imports from the EU as well.
That delusion is simply not true.” Instead the rules set out what the maximum would be, meaning the UK could cut them.
James McGrory, executive director of pro-EU group Open Britain, criticised Mr Farage’s intervention, saying: “If he was serious about making a return to frontline politics he would stand to be an MP.”
And a former head of the Civil Service, Lord Kerslake, said that the UK may have to rethink Brexit if there is no deal.